Introduction: Solitary Bee Habitat
First Prize in the
SciStarter Citizen Science Contest
While searching for something for my daughter and I to do together on scistarter, I stumbled upon a project involving insects. Kids love insects, so I thought it was an easy way to get her interested in science. The University of Florida is requesting the help of amateur backyard scientists to track and record solitary bees. We accepted the challenge and got out the tools to make a habitat and a pink clipboard to record the data.
Solitary bees do not make hives like other bees. They make individual nests in hollow reeds, holes in wood, or tunnels in the ground. Creating a man-made habitat is easy and it only requires a few items. The ideal hole size is 1/8 to 3/8 of an inch and 3 to 8 inches deep. The material used can be anything from recycled fast-food drink straws to holes drilled into a 2x4.
Why would anyone want to make a home for these insects?
Because the information gathered is used by the University of Florida to monitor the populations of solitary bees, track introduced non-native or invasive species and create action plans for endangered species.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to bee habitats, so following a step-by-step might be harder than improvising your own. When I designed mine I had a few goals in mind.
1. I wanted to use bamboo
2. I wanted the plans to be simple enough for an elementary aged child
3. I wanted to have the option for no power tools (drill, saw etc.)
I broke the rule 3 for mine; however, you still have the option to skip sanding and use a glue gun instead of a nail gun. Mine was just a proof of concept.
The bamboo I used was pre-cut into 6-8” pieces and was tied together to be used for garden edging. It was very helpful and should be easy to find at the garden center of your local hardware store. It is easy to dismantle by pulling out the wire that holds them together.
I sanded the individual bamboo sections with a 1” belt sander. I would recommend skipping this step unless you choose to build yours into an enclosure. The ridges on the bamboo made it difficult to set them next to each other. The bamboo’s natural form is just fine for this project. I sanded mine because I still had not finalized a plan at that point. It was easy to sand, if you must. It took 10 mins to finish 25 sections.
I was trying to find the best configuration and came up with an upside down pyramid type of construction. The top of each row overhangs the lower row. This provides protection from the sun and rain. I started by separating the bamboo by length. To provide a base, I used a scrap piece of 1x2. I nailed the longest bamboo first. Nailing is the fastest way but hot glue is what I will use in the future. The brads will not split the bamboo if you nail near the ridges or “nodes”. I used the next smallest in length for the next row and so on. The 1x2 was left longer on the ends to help secure it to a tree branch or stump.
When you make your own, just register your habitat with the University of Florida and submit any data gathered. Remember to check it regularly by setting a schedule or alarm on your phone.
You can take pride that your new hobby is helping protect and study solitary bees.
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